Responding to urgent calls from Congress and a fearful public, President Obama has tapped a former White House official to serve as his “Ebola czar.”
Ron Klain, an attorney who worked for Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, is president of Case Holdings, which handles business interests for former AOL CEO Steve Case, and general counsel at Revolution LLC, a tech-focused venture capital firm in Washington, according to the White House.
He will be the point-person in charge of responding to the deadly virus in the U.S., and will report directly to Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Although Mr. Klain does not come from the public health sector, the White House said he possesses “strong management credentials, extensive federal government experience overseeing complex operations and good working relationships with leading members of Congress, as well as senior Obama administration officials, including the president.”
Mr. Obama had said late Thursday it “may make sense for us to have one person” coordinating the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak, after the Liberian national who brought the virus to America’s shores died and two nurses who treated him tested positive in the following days.
The president said administration officials such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Ms. Monaco have other responsibilities and may benefit from having one person in charge of the government’s entire response.
“It may make sense for us to have one person in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process, just to make sure that we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s going forward,” the president said.
The appointment won early praise from Democrats and expert observers.
“I’ve known Ron Klain for over twenty years. He is smart, aggressive, and levelheaded — exactly the qualities we need in a czar to steer our response to Ebola,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat. “He is an excellent choice.”
Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond who tracks judicial appointments, said Mr. Klain’s experience in executive offices and on Capitol Hill should buoy him through this challenge.
“I think he really does know his way around Washington better than a whole lot of people,” he said.